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Television Collision: Do We Really Need Another Medical Drama?

Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageIn the summer of 2009, TNT premiered the medical drama HawthoRNe to solid numbers. Now the show is back, has changed its setting, some of its cast and is delving into the deep end when it comes to the romantic storylines. I don't like it as much as I used to, but here's my original assessment again on why it is a show worth watching.

Summer shows are a tricky thing. In previous years I have tried to avoid them and tided myself over the summer hiatus with DVDs and movies, because I didn’t want to get attached to a show and its characters only to have it be canceled after 12 episodes. I have mentioned it before, I seem to have a different taste than mainstream America, so chances are I will pick the one show to love that will most definitely get canned.

But this year, and the launch of this column had a lot to do with it, I decided to keep up with the summer shows, or at least the ones that were brand new (I am not counting among these shows such “established” formats as True Blood or Burn Notice). So every week on my schedule I have shows like Nurse Jackie, Hung, Royal Pains, Dark Blue, The Philanthropist, Hawthorne and a couple more I am forgetting right now.

Some of these shows, not surprisingly, aren’t very good at all. Others are okay, but leave room for improvement. TNT’s new medical drama, Hawthorne, falls into the latter category. Or so I thought until last Tuesday, when the show pulled out a truly stellar episode.

Let me recap for all you non-summer-TV-watchers: HawthoRNe focuses mainly on the nursing staff of a Richmond, VA, hospital. The central character is Christina Hawthorne, who is a Registered Nurse (get it now? HawthoRNe?) and head nurse, i.e. she gets to deal with all the bureaucracy and make shift plans and all that fun stuff. Needless to say she is a bit rebellious and tends to do things her way (hey, we are still in the La La Land of TV, go watch HBO or Showtime for REAL innovation), but she also has a great sense of humor and fierce loyalty to her nurses. She has a teenage daughter named Camille and has lost her husband and father to her daughter to cancer a few years ago.

Christina Hawthorne is being portrayed by Jada Pinkett Smith. Now I had never seen Mrs. Smith in any other role than being Will Smith’s wife, or if I did I can’t recall it, and I was a bit apprehensive at first as to whether I thought she was playing the character a bit too stereotypically. But Christina and Jada both grew on me. And in the episode last Tuesday, titled “Mother’s Day”, both really blew me away.

Warning, spoilers ahead!


I am not the baby that dies, don’t worry!

The episode dealt with one of those really, really bad days we all have at work sometimes. However, if your working place happens to be a hospital, “really, really bad” can take on a whole new meaning. I won’t go into all the details, but a baby died in the ER during the episode under really heartbreaking circumstances (her mom forgot the baby in the car during an insanely hot summer’s day, when the mom brought her won seizing mother in).
The entire staff was mortified by this event, as they should be! This was a refreshing take on a situation like this. Where we all go “oh, we have seen this a hundred times on other shows”, Hawthorne took the time to deal with the incident in a real way and showing how it affected everyone at the hospital. AS IT SHOULD! A baby died, that should be enough material to last any TV show a couple of episodes even. It’s easy to forget these realities when you watch too much TV (like it happens to me sometimes, I admit it freely).

Christina’s day was made even worse by the fact that she was fighting with the hospital administrator all day and he was trying to make her fire two nurses to save money. She tried to offer him all kinds of other cuts, but he didn’t seem to budge. And then Christina’s own adolescent daughter kept bugging her about some stupid trip to the beach with friends.
All of this pressure, which the dry and sarcastic Christina Hawthorne usually handles with a cynical joke, finally culminated in one of the best scenes I have seen all Summer TV Season.

After this long and horrible day, after she watched her nurses give their best only to lose in the end and be completely shattered by it, the usually so collected Christina Hawthorne walks to her car while arguing on the phone with her teenage daughter. When her daughter answers her mother’s refusal to give her permission for the beach trip with the question “I am your daughter, why don’t you care about me?”, Christina has finally had enough. She assures her daughter that she does care and then yells into the phone “YOU ARE NOT GOING!” and throws the phone away, fighting to keep in an earth-shattering scream to vent her anger at the world by violently pushing her hands to her mouth, while tears fill her eyes.

ImageNow, many other shows I know would have let this scenario play out with a bit of emotional music, finally Christina would have regained her composure, started her car and driven home. Instead, Hawthorne opted for harsh realism once again. In the most intense moment we, the viewer, have gotten with Christina all season, we are interrupted by a knock on the car window. It is Kelly, a very young nurse Christina had fought all day for so she wouldn’t get fired. Kelly knows nothing of this, but early had taken the death of the baby so hard, she was considering quitting the nursing profession altogether. She knocks to ask if Christina is alright and to tell her that she will be coming back on Monday after all.  Christina, adhering to her professional behavior she has prescribed herself, assures Kelly that she is alright and that she is really happy about her decision to come back. Only we, the viewers, know, how much effort it must have cost Christina right there to get those two sentences out.

Before I ramble on any longer, let me cut this short: Hawthorne isn’t a stellar show on a regular night, it is merely a pretty good one. But hey, many have said the exact same thing about House, and that is still going strong, isn’t it?
On a good night, however, like last week, Hawthorne is a great show with a lot of likable actresses (mainly) and some very likable characters.

TNT is establishing itself rather nicely as a channel you can tune in to for a couple of good shows (check below for exact listings).
Luckily, Hawthorne has already been renewed for ten additional episodes to be aired in 2010. This is good news for me, because, golly gosh, I have grown attached to it now.




Recommended Collisions with your Television

(combine at will, all times EST, only new programming listed)


Tuesday, July 20th
 8 p.m.  Pretty Little Liars (ABCFam)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.  Law & Order: Criminal Intent (USA)
Wednesday, July21st  
 8 p.m.  So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.  Hot In Cleveland (TVLand)
   In Plain Sight (USA)
Thursday, July 22nd  
 8 p.m.
 9 p.m.  So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
   Rookie Blue (ABC)
   Burn Notice (USA)
 10 p.m.  Royal Pains (USA)
   Boston Med (ABC)
Friday, July 23rd  
 8 p.m.  Friday Night Lights (NBC)
 9 p.m.  
 10 p.m.  Party Down (Starz)
   Miami Medical (CBS)
   Merlin (SyFy)
Saturday, July 24th
 8 p.m.
 Persons Unknown (NBC)
Sunday, July 25th
 9 p.m.  True Blood (HBO)
   Scoundrels (ABC)
   The Tudors (SHowtime)
 10 p.m.  Army Wives (Lifetime)
   The Gates (ABC)
   Hung (HBO)
   Leverage (TNT)
 10:30 p.m.  Entourage (HBO)
Monday, July 26th
 8 p.m.  Lie to Me (Fox)
 9 p.m.  The Good Guys (Fox)
   Huge (ABCFam)
 10 p.m.